Bessie Scott: A Different Kind of Life, but We Made It

In this excerpt, Bessie Green Scott talks about her childhood, respect for the river, and language.

Bios: Wilfred Scott (or Scotty) is a respected Nez Perce elder and veteran. Wilfred Scott became involved in the early days of Confluence Project. At that time he was on the Nez Perce Tribal Council (NPTC). Scotty grew up in Montana and was in the Navy between 1951-72. He is ½ Nez Perce on his father’s side. He became interested in Nez Perce culture as a young man and later became involved in tribal politics. He is still involved in fishing issues through CRITFC. Scotty was instrumental in initiating the Red Heart Band Memorial ceremony at Fort Vancouver, that honors and mourns the loss of the Nez Perce who were imprisoned there.

Bessie is his high school sweetheart and wife. She speaks Nez Perce and is part of the staff for the Nez Perce Language program keeping the language and culture alive. She passed away in January 2021.

Transcript

9: B: I always think about the older people, on how they were. And they expected us to be the same way. I’ve tried, I’ve tried hard. I didn’t learn my language, I listened to it, I understood it, but I didn’t talk until we came home from the service and I got started with it. I thought maybe I could at least be able to hold a conversation, but I started teaching, it was word for word again. And now it’sits for a few years I worked with the Head Start program. And it was just word for word. But then, after that, I started working with their adult program, and now it’s becoming a little bit easier to converse, but still not like the old people used to do. But that’s what keeps me going right now. Is my language. And as far as the river– we lived right next to the river, we had a little creek running by us. And we always had to respect it. During the summer, we really couldn’t go swimming until after the fourth. They always felt like, you know, we would get sick or something if we got in there too early. And once we got to go, we just spent all of our time down there in the river, swimming.

10:19: B: And we were just… we used to fish, I used to fish, we never had fishing poles, we’d just make poles from, ah, little limbs from our trees around the house. And that’s the way, you know that’s the way we grew up, running all over the hillside. We had a fruit orchard, a small fruit orchard, and always had a garden, and that’s the way I was brought up. We never had money. But we had all of that. And it wasn’t until — I never really complained, I just knew that’s the way it was. And it wasn’t until I left home and I realized how well off I was. Because then I had to buy everything and we had to live on the budget. (laughs). But it was, it was all a different kind of life. But we made it. Go ahead.